The following is a guest post from Nicholas Gjerde:
The date was December 11, 2010, and the roof of the Vikings home stadium, the Metrodome, just collapsed.
Mess in Minnesota: Vikings Owners Operate Overtly
I remember the story well because I was working on an assignment for my high school AP Biology class (Okay, procrastinating, more like) and read the news between spurts of actual production and reading up on the latest video games while listening to music videos on YouTube.
Unbeknownst to Minnesota Vikings fans at the time, this event triggered the catalyst that would be the transition from the historic Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, to the glorious bird-killing behemoth and future home of the 2017 Super Bowl we know today, U.S. Bank Stadium.
Lawmakers argued for months on who would fit the bill for the privately owned stadium, ultimately resulting in a joint effort between fans and owners. Per the Star Tribune, Minneapolis’s premiere newspaper, U.S. Bank stadium costs Minnesotan taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over three decades—somewhere in the ballpark of $616 million.
That’s quite a hefty price tag for a stadium only guaranteed sixteen regular season NFL games a year, and only one promised Super Bowl. It’s all worth it to see the Minnesota Vikings stick around though, right? After all, we’ve already seen two of our favorite sports teams pilfered by other states—the Minnesota North Stars (1967-1993) moved to Dallas to become just the Stars, and the Minneapolis Lakers (1947-1960) moved to Los Angeles to become one of the winningest teams in the NBA, despite California having just a fraction of the lakes of Minnesota.
Unfortunately for NFL sports fans, this trend of ownership holding teams hostage for new stadiums appears to be here to stay. Recently, the Oakland Raiders (Previously the Los Angeles Raiders (1982-1994), and before that, the Oakland Raiders again (1959-1981)) made news as rumors buzzed about the possibility of a relocation to San Diego or more recently, Las Vegas.
These rumors are interesting as the San Diego Chargers (1961-2016) recently moved back to Los Angeles, where they were originally founded and played for just a single year, 1960. The Los Angeles Chargers will presumably share a field with the Los Angeles Rams, another storied franchise having played for three different locations, Cleveland (1936-1945), Los Angeles 1946-1994), St. Louis (1995-2015), and Los Angeles as of present (2016-present).
Your head spinning yet?
In a billion-dollar industry self-proclaimed as being America’s national sport, does it make sense that taxpayers are still finding themselves indebted to building massive billion dollar venues that would put the Roman Colosseum to shame? With no guarantee that after several decades of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars, these teams won’t pack up and leave, leaving their proven expendable locations for greener (In terms of monetary value) pastures? Check out the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, home of the Lions from 1975-2001. It’s in shambles; reminiscent of other abandoned (sometimes single use) venues, such as the home of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, or the first ever United States Beatles concert at Washington Coliseum.
If the NFL is going to crusade as America’s sport, they should double down on their commitment to their American fans/players– and give their most passionate sports fans a break with the “Will they-won’t they” of everyone’s favorite business– a feud better suited for reality television than Joe Schmo’s heart and pocketbook.
At the very least (And I mean the very least), Minnesotans should be given the opportunity to base the naming rights of their stadium on a group vote, instead of offering the naming rights to the highest bidder.
But hey, the Super Bowl is in town this year, so that’s pretty cool, right?
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